Larry Bowa gripped the microphone Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, and tears began to well up, just as they had for the four men who preceded him.
Bowa, a six-decade baseball man who matched his Phillies pinstripes with a fiery disposition as a player, coach, and manager, learned hours earlier that David Montgomery had died after a five-year battle with cancer. Montgomery, Bowa said, was “the best human being I’ve ever been around. Ever.”
And Montgomery’s loss was enough to crack even the toughest nut.
They met in 1971, when Montgomery, a salesman in the Phillies ticket office, kept telling Bowa, the team’s young shortstop, that he had to get to a Big Five basketball game at the Palestra. That, he told Bowa, was more Philly than a cheesesteak. It was the start of a 48-year friendship.
“We’re losing a lot of the Phillies family every year, and this one hurts really, really bad,” Bowa said, holding back tears. “... This organization isn’t going to be the same without David. He taught players to respect the uniform. He taught players to give back to the community. That was important to him. You don’t just play the game. He taught everyone how to act like a big leaguer, on and off the field.”
Montgomery grew up a Phillies fan in Roxborough, attended Penn Charter with money left behind by his grandfather, worked his way into Penn, and started with the Phillies as an eager ticket seller who loved baseball. Twenty-six years later, he became the team president who never forgot his modest beginnings or an employee’s name.
“There wasn’t a phony bone in his body, and I mean that seriously,” said Phillies executive vice president David Buck. “He cared about everyone here until the very end. We hire a lot of summer interns, and last summer he came up to me and pointed to someone who had been there for like three days. ‘What’s her name?’
"I know a lot of people, but I didn’t know her name. He goes, ‘That’s Julie. She goes to Temple. Get to know her.’ That’s what he did. Always. It’s just so special.”
Montgomery had been hospitalized since the day after the March 28 season opener, as he willed himself to attend Opening Day. Major League Baseball, knowing how important it was to Montgomery, pushed up the announcement that the 2026 All-Star Game was coming to Philadelphia, so Montgomery could witness it.
Buck remembered when Montgomery said the Phillies lost their voice when announcer Harry Kalas died. Buck said Montgomery’s death was a loss “of a very, very big piece of our heart.”
John Middleton, the team’s managing partner, said the Phillies had lost a piece of their soul. Middleton said the team will wear a patch with Montgomery’s initials -- DPM -- on their jerseys beginning Monday, and the five National League pennants will be flown at half-staff for the foreseeable future.
Montgomery was honored last week by the Fairmount Park Conservancy. Middleton said the award presenter said Montgomery had accomplished something no one had ever done in the history of Philadelphia: be both successful and loved by everyone.
“He loved people, and when you’re around somebody who cares the way David did, it just rubs off on you,” Middleton said. “He was one of those rare people who made the other people around him be a better person. You wanted to be a better person because you felt the goodness of his heart.”
Mickey Morandini said Montgomery had a treatment in Philadelphia during spring training and was in Clearwater, Fla., the next night for a dinner with team sponsors. He never let the cancer slow him down. It was Montgomery, Morandini said, who was responsible for him returning to the Phillies as a minor-league coach after his playing career ended. He knew how much Montgomery cared about his employees.
Charlie Manuel thanked Montgomery for having the confidence to hire him as manager in 2005 and to stick with him during tough times before the team’s championship in 2008. Manuel and Bowa were in Reading on Tuesday night to watch the double-A team. They were scheduled to be there again Wednesday morning, but then the news came from Philadelphia that Montgomery had died.
Bowa, as his gripped the microphone that afternoon, said he had to apologize to Montgomery for cutting out of Reading a day early. He promised that he would be back there on Thursday to watch the prospects. He just needed a day off to mourn his friend.
“This is a sad day,” Bowa said. “I know Dave’s going to be a in a better place. What we can do now is -- and the team is in a good position -- we can win a World Series for Dave this year. I think that would be the greatest thing in the world for him.”